Is Sphinn Bad For The Industry?
Over at TrulyBored, they’re asking if Sphinn was the worst thing to happen to Search Engine Land due to the fact that it takes eyeballs away from the daily SearchCap.
Seriously though, it’s a perfectly valid question from a bunch of angles. I’m sure there have been all types of side effects from the launch of Sphinn, both for Search Engine Land and the search engine optimization community as a whole. Without a doubt some eyeballs have been taken away from the SearchCap. I’m sure SEO bloggers have found that comments are down for sphunn entries. I’m sure less people are visiting blogs directly. I’m sure Sphinn is even stealing some links away from certain blogs. But is all of this "bad"?
Not even a little bit.
The author of the post comes to the same conclusion I have though he views it from a perspective that is quite different. He calls Sphinn is a testament to the importance of owning the social media site in your niche. I find that logic completely backwards, respectfully of course.
Did Search Engine Land launch Sphinn to become the hub social networking site for the SEO community? Yes, I’m sure they did. But is that why it’s been good for the site and for the community? No. It has nothing to do with ownership; in fact, it’s actually about giving up ownership and allowing your audience to consume information via the medium that is most accepted by them. It’s about you giving up control of your brand and fishing where the fish are.
Sphinn and sites like it aren’t a detriment to their parent companies or the industries they reside in. They’re a sign that companies are maturing and realizing that sometimes it doesn’t matter how your customers found you, as long as they did find you. As long as they continue to seek you out. And as long as they took away a positive enough experience that they’ll want to associate themselves with you later. We’re leaving behind the false idea of "the all powerful Web site" and realizing that what’s really important is building engagement and, in time, conversions.
This is why you have big brand companies like Sony diving into Facebook and launching applications comprised of blood-sucking vampires. It’s why companies are uploading videos onto YouTube. It’s why social media sites are springing up. It’s why bloggers create a Twitter-based RSS feeds. It’s why email newsletters are still around and why some blogs offer email RSS feeds. It gives users options.
And quite honestly, these are the companies that I’m typically drawn to. And when you give me options as to how I can interact with you, I’ll often use every option available to me. I’m the person who subscribes to the SearchCap and subscribes to two Sphinn feeds. I read ResourceShelf via email and RSS feed. I’m insane.
The folks out there crying about a decrease in page views or a lack of comments on their blog are showing a clear sign of Just Don’t Get It. In 2008, it’s not about how many visitors you can corral to your site. It’s about making your brand relevant by becoming part of your audience’s every day life. Page views aren’t a good indicator of anything. Just because traffic has dipped doesn’t mean there aren’t more eyeballs looking at you and that customers aren’t more engaged than ever. Site traffic related metrics don’t take into account all the branding accomplished through RSS feeds, social networking sites, user generated content, etc. As long as people are interacting with you and continuing to value your brand, who cares what approach they take to do it? Your message is still getting out there.
Increase the reach of your message by inserting yourself into all facets of your customers’ lives and offering your content in a variety of ways. So, you have a blog. Do you offer both a partial and an ad-supported RSS feed for people like Michael? Have you allowed your readers to subscribe to email updates? Are there video versions of your content that your audience can view via YouTube? Are there podcasts? Is your content being submitted to sites like Sphinn, Delicious or StumbleUpon?
We’ve passed the point where companies can force visitors down a certain consumption path. If users want full feeds and you only offer partial, they’ll either leave you for someone else or they’ll develop some sort of hack to do it themselves. Remember what happened when Apple tried to lock iPhone users into AT&T? They took a hell of a lot of heat for something a college kid was able to "fix" over his summer vacation.
Sphinn hasn’t taken anything away from Search Engine Land or the search engine optimization community. If anything, it’s a sign that Danny was confident enough in his team’s content to allow it to be "unlocked". You should be just as confident about your own. It’s not your job to tell your customers how they should interact with you. Lay out their options and let them pick the one they like the best.